Research has shown that the health benefits of laughter are far-ranging. Studies so far have shown that laughter can help relieve pain, bring greater happiness, and even increase immunity. Unfortunately, however, many people don’t get enough laughter in their lives.
One study suggests that healthy children may laugh as much as 400 times per day, but adults tend to laugh only 15 times per day.
The benefits of laughter
1. Relaxes the whole body.
A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after.
2. Boosts the immune system.
Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your disease resistance.
3. Triggers the release of endorphins.
Endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
4. Protects the heart.
Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.
5. Lightens anger’s heavy load.
Nothing diffuses anger and conflict faster than a shared laugh. Looking at the funny side can put problems into perspective and enable you to move on from confrontations without holding onto bitterness or resentment.
6. It May even help you to live longer.
A study in Norway found that people with a strong sense of humor outlived those who don’t laugh as much. The difference was particularly notable for those battling cancer.
7. Shifts perspective.
It allows you to see situations in a more realistic, less threatening light. A humorous perspective creates psychological distance, which can help you avoid feeling the overwhelmed and diffuse conflict.
8. Draws you closer to others
Which can have a profound effect on all aspects of your mental and emotional health.
9. Brings people together and strengthens relationships
Laughter is contagious. You’re many times more likely to laugh around other people than when you’re alone. And the more laughter you bring into your own life, the happier you and those around you will feel.
Sharing humor is half the fun most laughter doesn’t come from hearing jokes, but rather simply from spending time with friends and family. And it’s this social aspect that plays such an important role in the health benefits of laughter.
10. Manages the stress
Here are some of the many ways laughter reduces stress.
Laughter reduces the level of stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine (adrenaline), dopamine, and growth hormone. It also increases the level of health-enhancing hormones, like endorphins.
Laughter increases the number of antibody-producing cells we have working for us and enhances the effectiveness of T cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress.
Laughter provides a physical and emotional release.
A good belly laugh exercises the diaphragm, contracts the abs, and even works out the shoulders, leaving muscles more relaxed afterward. It even provides a good workout for the heart.
Laughter brings the focus away from anger, guilt, stress, and negative emotions in a more beneficial way than other mere distractions.
Studies show that our response to stressful events can be altered by whether we view something as a threat or a challenge. Humor can give us a more lighthearted perspective and help us view events as challenges, thereby making them less threatening and more positive.
How to bring more laughter into your life
Laughter is your birthright, a natural part of life that is innate and inborn. Begin by setting aside special times to seek out humor and laughter, as you might with exercising, and build from there. Eventually, you’ll want to incorporate humor and laughter into the fabric of your life, finding it naturally in everything.
Here are some ways to start:
Smiling is the beginning of laughter, and like laughter, it’s contagious. When you look at someone or see something even mildly pleasing, practice smiling. Notice the effect on others.
2. Count your blessings.
Make a list. The simple act of considering the positive aspects of your life will distance you from negative thoughts that block humor and laughter. When you’re in a state of sadness, you have further to travel to reach humor and laughter.
3. Laugh with friends.
Going to a movie or a comedy club with friends is a great way to get more laughter in your life. The contagious effects of laughter may mean you’ll laugh more than you otherwise would have during the show, plus you’ll have jokes to reference at later times.
Making time for this kind of fun is as important as any other habit you keep in your life to support your health, and it’s very possibly more enjoyable than most health habits as well.
4. Find humor in your life
Instead of complaining about life’s frustrations, try to laugh about them. If something is so frustrating or depressing it’s ridiculous, realize that you could ‘look back on it and laugh.’ Think of how it will sound like a story you could tell your friends, and then see if you can laugh about it now.
5. Fake it until you make it
Just as studies show the positive effects of smiling occur whether the smile is fake or real, faked laughter also provides the benefits mentioned above. The body can’t distinguish between ‘fake’ laughter that you just start doing on purpose and ‘real’ laughter that comes from true humor. Also, you can set an alarm clock on the Habitomic app to remind you to practice laughing or smiling. You can add this habit to your morning routine.
So, smile more, and fake laughter; you’ll still achieve positive effects, and the fake merriment may lead to real smiles and laughter.
6. Take a step back
One of the main goals of finding humor in a stressful situation is to use humor to create distance between yourself and the stress you are experiencing. Laughing at the humorous aspects of a stressful situation can help you to keep things in perspective and remind yourself that what you experience may not be the worst thing you can face.
If you are having trouble finding humor in your situation, it could help to approach things from a different angle: instead of using humor to find perspective, put things in perspective to allow yourself to more easily see the humor.
7. Read humorous memoirs
It can be a wonderful stress relief to read humorous books about other people’s lives, and this can provide great practice with self-acceptance as well. Well-written books can frame an embarrassing mistake as a hilarious tale that can help us all feel better about our own mistakes.
8. Shift your focus
Sometimes you may have a hard time finding the humor in your situation, but you can laugh at other things—this is great, too! Shift your focus to something else that might make you laugh or smile—funny videos, articles about something you find noteworthy, anything that might lift your mood—and come back to your challenge with a more relaxed attitude.
9. Focus on stress management
When you have other coping strategies that work, you can more easily find humor in stressful situations. Meditation, exercise, cognitive reframing, and other stress management techniques can help you to keep from getting to a point where things feel overwhelming and it’s difficult to laugh about it.
10. Laugh at yourself.
Share your embarrassing moments. The best way to take yourself less seriously is to talk about times when you took yourself too seriously.
11. Surround yourself with reminders to lighten up.
Keep a toy on your desk or in your car. Put up a funny poster in your office. Frame photos of you and your family or friends having fun.
12. Remember funny things that happen.
If something amusing happens or you hear a joke or funny story you like, write it down or tell it to someone to help you remember it.
13. Don’t dwell on the negative.
Try to avoid negative people and don’t dwell on news stories, entertainment, or conversations that make you sad. Many things in life are beyond your control—particularly the behavior of other people.
14. Find your inner child.
Pay attention to children and try to emulate them—after all, they are the experts on playing, taking life lightly, and laughing at ordinary things.
15. Have a favorite comedian.
There are lots of great comedians out there, but almost everyone knows of at least one comedian who appeals to their particular sense of humor. Choose your favorite comedian and look for some of their comedy routines on YouTube.
16. Start a scrapbook of funny things your family members say.
Family members are a great source for funny comebacks and sayings.
Start a scrapbook to collect the funny things your family does and the things they say. This will make you more aware of their funny moments, which will make you appreciate them more.
17. Try laughter therapy.
Laughter therapy seeks each of the physical, psychological, and emotional benefits that laughter can bring to the human being.
This therapy is usually performed in groups of people and the main objective is that each of the participants can achieve a state of satisfaction, in which they feel much more positive, optimistic, and in harmony with themselves.
In summary, believe it or not, laughing is good medicine to protect your health. Laughing at what stresses or embarrasses you is an inborn ability for some, but can be a learned skill for others.
The good news is that you can also enhance your ability to do this by using the tips explained, so it becomes a habit that comes much more easily and automatically.